La Ceramica was rocking, and putting on a show of attacking football.
Facing an opponent with the courage to open up the game is a rarity for Barcelona.
The forwards and attacking midfielders had the time of their lives. Lamine Yamal continued to dazzle, and the midfield quartet were able to make music.
Robert Lewandowski was able to poach home a much-needed goal to gain confidence, while Ferran Torres entered beast mode with an astonishing display of determination.
With the game so open, Pedri’s absence was barely noticed. Frenkie de Jong and Ilkay Gundogan were an impressive tandem, covering lots of space, leaving the opponent to question who’s coming and who’s going.
But defensively, the team looked weak without the presence of Ronald Araujo.
Villarreal under Quique Setien relishes giving Barcelona the very thing they lament never seeing.
It was enjoyable to see a proper game of football in the aftermath of the anti-football that Getafe and Cadiz were happy to serve up.
In a game like this, Barcelona should expect to win in style. They have superior talent, and when allowed to play, they should come out on top every time.
But defense is part of the game too, and when it comes to the Champions League, getting this part right, in terms of tactics and player selection, will make the difference.
As things currently stand, the team is without Ronald Araujo, Inigo Martinez, and possibly Andreas Christensen if the discomfort becomes something bigger.
If this was supposed to be a tryout for Marcos Alonso and Sergi Roberto, they once again were the weakest links on the field.
Within five minutes, Alonso was targeted with a ball in behind that Alexander Sorloth easily ran onto and slotted home.
Villarreal were confident in their game plan to attack the back line, and they looked destined for success.
Against the run of play, Barcelona turned things around with quick goals in succession from Gavi and Frenkie de Jong.
At the end of the day, the Blaugrana took advantage of the end to end game, and produced 21 shots, 11 of which were on target.
But going up 2-0, you have to be able to shut things down defensively, or if it’s more of the Barcelona way, take the sting out of the game with calm possession.
Instead, Villarreal never seemed worried that the comeback was possible, and were able to level things up at 2-2 by half-time.
Off a corner kick in the 25th minute, full-back target Juan Foyth lost Sergi Roberto, and then rose above Marcos Alonso, with a strong header to reduce the lead.
For goal number two, a counter attack that caught the entire team off guard, ended with a ball slipped in behind Sergi Roberto for an easy tap in across the box.
For the goal that sent Villarreal ahead, Roberto had his worst moment of the game, being caught out completely in the midfield, and getting skipped past by Alfonso Pedraza, who got the assist after making it all the way into the box.
What confuses me is how harsh Xavi was with Sergino Dest, a player who also was defensively vulnerable, but at least was capable of providing a threat in the attack, and versatile enough to play on both sides of the field. Roberto and Alonso offer less on both counts. Shouldn’t they be held to the same standard?
So where does this leave Barcelona with five days left in the transfer window?
Joan Laporta has promised at least two new signings, and there are rumors of interest for Marcos Alonso in the Premier League, with Manchester United in particular looking to strengthen at left full-back.
If Barcelona can sign Joao Cancelo, it’s a big boost, as he can play either side of the field in case of injury, or for tactical purposes.
But most concerning of all may be the situation with the center-backs.
We all love Araujo, but he struggles to stay healthy. Christensen is another one who spends a good deal of time on the sideline. We’ve yet to see Inigo Martinez.
None of us want a repeat of last year’s group stage. The team needs to stay healthy in the early going, and Xavi needs to manage the season so that he can put out his strongest team in the most important group stage games.
We can’t have Marcos Alonso featuring as a full-back, or a backup center-back for that matter, in critical matches. Eric Garcia seems to be losing confidence as time goes on as well.
Barca needs to get serious about its priorities.
With the emergence of Lamine Yamal, and the promise of other young attacking players like Ez Abde and Fermin Lopez, there’s no need to focus anywhere else this week than on strengthening the defense.
Cancelo won’t be enough if Barcelona wants to win titles this season.
What we saw from the Yellow Submarine was a wake-up call.
Barca needs defensive depth, and they need to keep up with the trends across Europe, and find players who can provide physicality.
That means an ability to defend set pieces, and to have the speed and strength to go up against dangerous wingers.
If they don’t get this right, they are an injury away from losing control of the season.
There’s still time on the clock, and Laporta needs to get busy.